Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Friday, 26 April 2013

The need for speed: Curry in a hurry, or Nigella's Thai Green Curry

Yes, I could make my own curry paste. I have made my own curry paste in the past and it was pretty good, but, fundamentally I am a) lazy and b) busy, and if you are either or both of those and you like Thai curry then here is the answer to what you can cook of an evening when you crash through the door with a selection of children/marking/ a loathing of the fact it's raining again, yadda yadda yadda.
One of the things I really like about this curry is its greenness. Despite dumping a tin of coconut milk into the mix you can't help but think that with such verdancy will be doing you the absolute power of good. The original recipe calls for soya beans which when I first started making this curry years ago, my supermarket didn't stock, so I subbed broad beans for the only reason that they look a bit like soya beans and because I absolutely adore them. I don't really care if soya beans are the greatest things in the world, I will not be changing.
So this is from Nigella Lawson's 'Nigella Express'. Not my first foray into this particular book it has to be said, for I am definitely not averse to employing the odd short cut to create something that tastes really quite good. And this tastes really quite good.
Not unsurprisingly Lola and Finn are really not keen. When I make this, it is because Lola and Finn have already eaten, or I will have given in to a clamouring for pasta. I aim to please.
Curry in a Hurry (Thai Green Curry), adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
My adaptions in red
                       2 tablespoons wok oil (I use sesame oil)                      
3 tablespoons spring onions (finely chopped)
3 - 4 tablespoons green Thai curry paste
1 kilogramme chicken thigh fillets (cut into strips about 4 x 2cm)
1 x 400 ml can coconut milk
250 ml boiling boiling water
chicken stock concentrate or cube
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
185 g Frozen peas
200 g Frozen soya beans (I use broad beans)
150 g Frozen fine beans
3 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)
Heat the wok oil in a large saucepan that owns a lid, drop in the spring onions and cook, stirring for a minute or two, then add the curry paste.
Add the chicken pieces and keep turning over heat for 2 minutes, before adding the coconut milk, stock (i.e. the water plus stock concentrate or cube) and fish sauce, then the frozen peas and soya beans.
Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the frozen fine beans to the mix and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Serve with rice or noodles, sprinkling the coriander over as you do so. Put out a plate of lime wedges for people to squeeze over as they eat.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Randomness results in amazing brownies! Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Pecans and Curly Wurlies

I think that sometimes being random is good, rather than bad. Random is a word bandied around with some negativity, depending on context. “Oh, you are so random!” Well, good, for being random this month has resulted in my baking these frankly amazing (if I do say so myself) brownies. I mean, brownies are amazing, of course but these are uber amazing, if that is at all possible.
If you are one of these people who think that gilding the lily is pointless, well, not in this case. The addition of cream cheese topping and roasted pecans along with chocolate covered caramel (Heath Bars in the original recipe, an American confection I believe, I subbed it for the very English Curly Wurly, for let’s face facts, whilst not as good as a finger of Fudge, it is really quite close to being perfection) and the result was a brownie at once creamy, nutty and then moist and chewy with molten chocolate caramel. Yes, they are that good.

Already identified as a possible. I am a post it note queen...
Hope mine look like these!
I was very strict and used the natty random thingumabob on the Belleau Kitchen website. It came up with book 116, which was 'Magnolia at Home' by Allysa Tovey, of Magnolia Bakery fame and page 107, which was Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Pecans and Heath Bars. As well as forcing me to be random it also forced me to count my cookbooks. I have 261, which has chastened me a little. No more impulse buying from the clearance section at TKMaxx, second hand bookshops, or taking other people’s cast offs. Birthdays and Christmas only. Birthdays and Christmas only. Birthdays and Christmas only (repeat to fade…)
Here is the recipe.
Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies with Pecans and Curly Wurlies, adapted from the recipe in Magnolia at Home by Allysa Tovey
Makes 24 2 inch brownies
Ingredients in cup measurements (US recipe)

My adaptations in red:

For the cream cheese filling:
One 8-oz. pkg cream cheese, not softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temp.
2 tbs. plain flour

For the brownies:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (2 sticks is a pack of butter in the UK) 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Menier dark chocolate) 2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tbs. whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
2/3 cup chopped Heath bars, or any chocolate-covered toffee bars (I used Curly Wurlies, put them in the freezer to harden before chopping them. Three bars made 2/3 cupful)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Firstly, make the cream cheese topping:  In a medium-size bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until smooth. Add the egg and flour and beat well.  Set aside.

Now for the rest of the brownie mixture.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  

In a medium-size saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes until lukewarm.  

Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla and beat well.  Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Stir in half of the pecans and half of the Curly Wurlies.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the brownie batter.

Spread the rest of the batter evenly in the prepared pan.  

Drop the cream cheese mixture by tablespoonfuls over the batter.  Next, drop the reserved brownie batter by teaspoonfuls in between the cream cheese filling.  

Using a small knife, swirl the two batters together, forming a decorative pattern.  

Sprinkle the remaining pecans and Curly Wurlies over the top, and using a spatula, gently press into the batter.  

Bake for 40-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centre of the pan comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not over bake.  Allow to cool overnight before cutting and serving.

Note:  To toast the pecans, place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.  Be careful to not let them burn!


I am submitting this recipe to April’s Random Recipes, hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen. Can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with!


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Pleasing assonance and an eggstremely good dish - Sweet Pepper and Feta Quiche

Wow, back after a bit of a blogging break (riddled with some dreadful lurgy - I'll spare you the details) and regular readers of these ramblings will know I like a bit of a bargain and dislike faff. So, whilst dragging my 'pseudo flu' ridden body around the supermarket recently I cruised slowly past the chuck outs (timing being everything - you've gotta leave it reasonably late in the day to that tipping time where they price it down further to get rid whatever dishevelled offerings they have left) I spied two large pots of sweet roasted peppers and feta from the deli lurking on the shelf. 30p each. Bang bang, in the trolley they went.
I love quiche. And tarts. And flans. And I got to thinking that the combination of sweet heat and salt from the peppers and feta enveloped in an unctuous eggy creamy custard might be the way to go. And whilst you could make your own pastry (as it happens, on this occasion I did) I am not averse to opening a cardboard package of ready rolled and slamming it into a loose bottomed flan tin, because, let's face it, sometimes life is too short. 10 minutes blind baking whilst you are sorting out the quiche filling and then it's in the oven. 25 minutes or so, job done. Dinner's on the table.
I added a little more Feta to the peppers that I bought, because we're Feta fiends here. It's important to taste the quiche mixture before you put it in the pie case because despite the Feta, sometimes a little more seasoning is needed. I left the peppers and Feta in strips and lumps, because I thought the finished look would be quite pleasing, something akin to abstract impressionism, but I think there is an argument for crumbling the feta and dicing the peppers, particularly if you want to entice the more 'discerning' of children into eating it. And even though I used deli peppers, there are reasonably priced jarred roasted peppers which would work just as well. I think you could also add some herbs, maybe some finely chopped oregano or thyme for an extra hint of something fragrant.
Sweet Pepper and Feta Quiche
Serves Mum, Dad, Lola and Finn
Pack of shortcrust pastry (you will have some over for another quiche. Brilliant!) or look at the recipe I use below.
8oz deli roasted peppers
6oz Feta cheese
3 large eggs (or 4 medium)
10fl oz double cream
salt and pepper to taste.
If you are using ready made pastry or you've made your pastry and you are ready to go, preheat the oven to 180c and put a baking sheet into the oven.
Prepare the pastry either by making the recipe below (which is enough for two recipes - freeze what you don't need) or by rolling out some ready made shortcrust pastry and pressing it into a prepared loose bottomed flan tin. (I used my 13" x 4" rectangular flan tin, which seems to be a very similar size to my 8" round flan tin) Fork the bottom of the pastry case to prevent it from rising too much whilst it blind bakes.
Try not to stretch the pastry or else it will shrink whilst it cooks.
Blind bake the pastry for about 10/15 minutes by putting a sheet of greaseproof paper over the pastry and filling the case with baking beans/rice/beans. Distribute the beans evenly across the base and bake on the preheated baking sheet for 15 minutes, removing the baking beans for the last five minutes to try to dry out the bottom.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Place your roasted peppers and feta in a bowl, either leave them chunky or chop up.
Add the cream and the eggs and stir thoroughly to combine. Taste the custard. It will need seasoning but be judicious, particularly with the salt as the Feta will add some saltiness to the finished dish, especially if you chop the Feta quite small.
Remove the par baked pastry case from the oven and pour the filling into it, evenly distribute the peppers and Feta throughout the custard and shake the tin a little to settle the mixture. Don't overfill. You shouldn't, in any case, have much left over, but if you do you could always pour some mixture into ramekins and bake it. Next morning's breakfast/lunch right there!) Place back onto the preheated baking tray and bake in the oven for about another 25 - 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is golden.
Allow to cool for about 5 or 10 minutes before cutting and serving for a raging hot quiche never tasted of anything and just burns the roof of your mouth.
What could you have this with? Well, I'll be honest, a chilled glass of white wine over looking the Med is what I am thinking but maybe a little salad, some new potatoes, tin of beans (seriously - I love quiche and beans).
Shortcrust Pastry:
Makes two 8 inch tart bases
20z butter
2 oz vegetable shortening
8oz flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 4 tablespoons of cold water, to bind.
tsp dried herbs (only for savoury fillings and very optional)
Rub together or blitz the flour and the fats so the mixture resembles bread crumbs and add the salt and herbs if using.
Bind the mixture with a tablespoon of water at a time.
When the mixture is bound, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow it to rest.
I am submitting this recipe to #eggmainsinminutes. Let's face it; eggs are the ultimate fast food! And if you visit here, you will find many more fantastic egg recipes. Enjoy!


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